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A comparison of Socrates and Solomon: what is the good life?

This is another comparison of Socrates and a Biblical figure. This one is going to compare the wise men of two different cultures. One thing I find interesting is that Socrates is Greek, making him a Gentile. In the Bible, Greek seems to be a synonym for all Gentiles. Not very important, but still interesting. Also, this seems to be funny because Solomon knows that he has nothing, even with everything in the world, while Socrates is the ugly, poor man who has decided he is the wisest man on earth. I am taking Socrates’ ideas from his dialogues, and Solomon’s ideas from Ecclesiastes. I am going to show that Solomon is the wiser. Once again, I am doing this in the Greek writing exercise form, so please bear with the boring form. This way makes it a lot easier for me to figure out what to write. As always, feel free to comment on my post. This one being a battle between worldviews, I would love to know what everyone thinks.

First, I will state how they got their wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom came as a gift from God, so that immediately gives it a head start over Socrates’ wisdom. Socrates claimed that the only wisdom he had was that he knew that he was not wise, but he assumed a lot of things for such a man. Being a philosopher, it would be kind of hard for him to claim that.

Their birth and upbringing gave Solomon another boost. He was born into the house of the king of Israel, God’s chosen people. Not only that, but his father was a man after God’s own heart. Socrates was born into a family of middle class Greeks, so he would not have a chance at the true wisdom that comes from knowing God. I think that it is obvious that Solomon had a better childhood.

What their wisdom actually taught is the main part of this post. Socrates taught such things as reincarnation, every man being his own God, and a host of other things that todays New Age philosophers would shout with joy over. If you are surprised at this, let me steal some of Solomon’s wisdom: “there is nothing new under the sun.” Socrates’ idea of the good life was to find “the truth.” However, there are a few differences between Socrates and todays popular thinking: Socrates believed in absolutes, and he believed in right and wrong.

Solomon could be called a pessimistic preacher after reading the first part of Ecclesiastes. But if you read it all the way through, you find that Solomon taught that the only true happiness came in following God. While he does reference the idea of “eat, drink, and be merry,” he quite clearly states that you are to follow God. That is his idea of the good life. Interestingly, in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says ” do not be overly wise; why should you destroy yourself?” Socrates met his death from holding fast to what he called “wisdom.”

I hope that I have shown that Solomon was the wiser of the two. If I haven’t then please tell me why. See you later!

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6 thoughts on “A comparison of Socrates and Solomon: what is the good life?

  1. Glenda Choate on said:

    You are developing into a very good writer. I like how you take a stand and then defend your stance. Solomon searched for fulfillment in many things during his life, but yes, he did conclude that only through God does man have purpose, wisdom, and peace.

    Gram

  2. I would be interested in knowing which of the Dialogues of Plato you read for your research, Malcolm. I am also interested in your comment “Being a Philosopher, it would be kind of hard for him to claim that.” Why do you say that? I am interested in what you think about the nature of a philosopher. I am proud of you for taking on tough subjects. ~Aunt Mollianne

    • I read the Euthypro, the Apology, the Crito, and the Phaedo. When I made that comment about philosophers, I meant that he claimed to know nothing, so he must have lied somewhere along the way. I think that a philosopher is like a scientist, attempting to find the laws for the spiritual world, as a scientist does for the physical. I wish they would just look at the Bible. It would make it so much faster.

      • Malcolm,
        I have a degree in Philosophy and your concept of a philosopher is very different from my understanding of what it means to be a philosopher. My education in Philosophy was geared toward considering the fundatmental structures of our combined human experience and to evalutate and assess them critically. On a very elementary level, people seem to be drawn to Philosophy because they want to understand questions of reality, values, knowledge, language and reason. I learned to study these questions by learning to read a text sympathetically, form an argument, write soundly and to think rationally. I was trained to apply the rules of logic in all of that.

        It is my view that one must be careful in one’s approach to the ancients and their view of the world and never be condescending toward the body of work that they formulated. I wouldn’t say that Socrates lied when he claimed to know nothing. He was trying to take a thought or concept apart and work it all the way back to a first principle.

        This is a very difficult and rather daunting task. Often, we come away with more questions than answers. Trying to define or know an intangible such as justice, courage, dignity, truth, piety or the afterlife is near impossible. It can drive a person mad with circular arguments and dead ends. I hold that we can say interesting things about those intangibles, but something always slips away when we use ordinary language to try to define them. This is why art is important. Sometimes an artistic medium can capture those intangibles better than discursive language.

        The thing that makes it even harder for us as believers is to lay aside our pre-conceived notions when we tackle such discussion and argument in an academic manner. At the end, after all the logical, reasonable, academic arugments have been made, our Christian beliefs are sustained by our faith. By our faith alone, which is what God asks of us.

        Thank you for your response. I will look forward to more discourse with you, Malcolm.
        Love,
        Aunt Mollianne

      • While God does ask us to believe, I don’t think he ever asks us to live by faith alone. He does not want blind Christians. I think that he actually wants us to ask the questions sometimes, but we should realize that we won’t always get an answer.

  3. learning2serv on said:

    Malcolm, once again, a well thought article. I also agree with what your Aunt M. stated. For me, the beginning of my “wisdom” was on the day that it dawned on me that “I know nothing”. This was a pretty heady observation for a guy who thought he knew a thing or two. It was also very humbling.

    From a Christian viewpoint, many philosophers start in just that way.

    The truth about God is plain to them. God has made it plain. Ever since the world was created it has been possible to see the qualities of God that are not seen. I’m talking about his eternal power and about the fact that he is God. Those things can be seen in what he has made. So people have no excuse for what they do. (Rom 1:18-20 NIrV)

    This obviously included Socrates. Unfortunately they didn’t continue in that vein…

    I believe a crucial point that Aunt M. made was about faith being the key denominator. Can you imagine coming upon a culture where 1+2 does not equal 3? When we truly accept faith as absolute and the Word of God as Truth, this is the level of futility that we see in the thinking of others.

    Nevertheless, we must take pains to remember that we STARTED in the same place (The truth about God is plain to them. God has made it plain). But they took a wrong turn, and we continued in the right direction. And this with some irony: it is only because God called us out darkness (in this case foolish thinking) into his marvelous light (of the Gospel and the fullness of His Truth).

    They knew God. But they didn’t honor him as God. They didn’t thank him. Their thinking became worthless. Their foolish hearts became dark. They claimed to be wise. But they made fools of themselves. They would rather have statues of gods than the glorious God who lives forever. Their statues of gods are made to look like people, birds, animals and reptiles. So God let them go. He allowed them to do what their sinful hearts wanted to. (Rom 1:21-24a NIrV)

    And because Satan is smart enough to understand you trap flies with honey, there is usually some element of truth in the lies people believe. When we connect with others, especially unbelievers on that level, perhaps we can seek the common truth then from there we can lead them to All Truth (God). And so we lovingly extend to them that which was extended to us: lovingkindness and grace (see 2Tim 2:24-26).

    Thanks for sharing with us. His blessings upon you, His grace and wisdom be multiplied within you!

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